Liveblog: H129 Municipal Broadband hearing

I'll be liveblogging highlights from this morning's House Finance meeting. Refresh often.

Posted Updated

Laura Leslie
9:46 Rep. Starnes moves favorable report. H129 passes 21-9. Off to floor. 

Thanks for reading!

9:45 Faison tries one last amendment that would remove requirement that cities pay sales tax on equipment etc for broadband systems. Fails10-18. 
9:42 Faison amendment to exempt rural areas fails on voice vote.  

Faison tries another one that would give cities back the ability to amortize the cost of public broadband services.  Fails 10-18.

9:37 New Faison amendment would exempt "rural areas" from rules.  Avila: opposed. 
9:36 Weiss: "This bill is not about creating jobs, it's about protecting a monopoly and hog-tieing our citizens, and I'll be voting against it." 
9:34 Ross, speaking against bill: "We're further creating a digital divide in NC, we are not carrying about our citizens, and we are capitulating to the almighty dollar. And that is not in the best interest of our state." 
9:30 Faison tries again to redefine "unserved areas" as 50%.  Avila points out that FCC definitions call 50% underserved, 90% unserved.  But she doesn't oppose it. 

Faison amendment passes easily, 21-6.

9:28 Avila says she has "concerns" about it, but won't speak against the Warren amendment, which is a corrected version of the amendment he ran last week.  

Lewis asks whether it would apply to Wilson.  Answer: not really. 

Passes: 26-1. (Rep. Stone votes against.)

9:26: Warren is now trying a new version of his amendment.  It's pretty bad when the lobbyists around the perimeter of the room are having to correct the committee members' motions.  
9:25 Committee now voting to reconsider vote on Warren amendment from last week.  Motion passes 17-11. 

Re-vote on Warren amendment. (That's the one that was mis-drawn last week.) Warren asks for Republicans to support the amendment anyway, and he'll run a perfecting amendment.  Fails. 

Chair Julia Howard is apparently having difficulty with the order of rules. 

Luebke amendment would have put H129 on hold. It fails on mostly party lines, 9-18.

9:15 Rep. Luebke says H129 runs counter to federal efforts to expand access to broadband. Compares it to the history of electrification in the 1930s, when big power companies didn't see any need to offer service in lightly populated rural areas. Roosevelt responded with the Rural Electrification Act, which brought power to those areas.

Chairman Julia Howard calls revote on amendment. Fails 10-16.

Motion carries 17-10. Ds Wainwright and Carney voted with the Republicans.  

Rep. Collins moves to reconsider the Faison amendment that defines an underserved area as one where 50% don't have access to high-speed. (The original bill would define as "served" any area where 10% of the households have access to high-speed.) The amendment passed last week. Collins says Faison amendment also re-defines high-speed as a higher speed than most currently have.

Sponsor Rep. Marilyn Avila: "This bill deals with cities that want to offer services that are already being offered by private enterprise. There are no rules" on that competition. "This is not a prohibition of competition. It just says cities...must play by the same rules" private industry does. 

End of public comment.

Jack Cozort, representing City of Wilson: We're asking you to keep the promise that's been made to us for four years. Says rumors that Wilson's system is planning to expand to Rocky Mount and Greenville "are simply not true."

9:00am   Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity: "The overwhelming majority of NC households have at least two choices" for cable and broadband. There's no need for government to step in.  Says Wilson and Salisbury are "in debt" for their systems. (They did take out bonds to pay for it..) "Municipal broadband has been a failure all over this country."

Tim Lee, Center for Individual Freedom: Says there's not a single public broadband project worldwide that has turned a profit, so taxpayers have to bail them out.  "Ultimately, taxpayers lose."  Says government competition removes incentives for private companies to expand. 

Mark Turner, Technology advocate for E. Raleigh: Kids do almost all their research online.  But there are almost never enough computers in classrooms or libraries. "This bill will take away our cities' ability to serve these folks, and if the cities won't serve them, then no one else will." 

Catherine Rice, Triangle J. Council of Govt: "Disappointing that taxpayers are only being given two minutes to speak" on H129.  She says NC ranks 41st out of the 50 states for access to high-speed internet.  Rice says lawmakers should focus on getting its citizens "more broadband, not less."

Eric Kampenski (sp?), Orange Co. citizen: "Please just step aside and let our communities deliver the services that you, Time Warner and CenturyLink will not provide."

8:45 AM Chairwoman Julia Howard says they will vote on this bill today.

Salisbury Mayor pro Tem Maggie Blackwell, speaking in favor of the amendment to exempt current public broadband systems: "When we asked private sector providers to come to the table with broadband solutions for our citizens, they were unable or unwilling to do so."

Mooresville Mayor Chris Carney, also in favor of exemption: says Mooresville got into the business because of Adelphia's bankruptcy. He says they tried to work with Time Warner, but weren't able to do so.  "We got here based on good, solid financials."

CenturyLink spokesman Steve Brewer, speaking in favor of the bill: We're working every day on solutions. This bill is not about the lack of high speed internet in rural areas. It's about competition between municipalities and the private sector.

It's a full house. So far, comment is running overwhelmingly against the bill, and in favor of Warren's amendment to exempt existing municipal broadband systems. 



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